After rawls argued that any rational person who inhabits the original position and stands behind the veil of ignorance can discover the two principles of justice, Rawls has perhaps constructed the most abstract version of a theory of social contract. It is very abstract, because instead of showing that we have signed, or even signed, a contract to found society, it shows us instead what we must accept as rational people in order to be limited by justice and thus be able to live in a well-ordered society. The principles of justice are more fundamental than the social contract, as it has traditionally been conceived. On the contrary, the principles of justice limit this treaty and set the limits of how we can build society. If, for example, we consider a Constitution as a concrete expression of the social contract, rawls determines two legal principles that can and cannot be asked of us. Rawls` theory of justice therefore represents the canteen limits of the forms of political and social organization that are allowed in a just society. Philip Pettit (1945) argued in Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government (1997) that the theory of the social contract, which is classically based on the approval of the governed, should be modified. Instead of arguing for explicit consent that can always be produced, Pettit argues that the absence of effective rebellion against it is the only legitimacy of a treaty. This assertion is based on the idea that an argument could be made in favour of the relevance of political agreements without resorting to the need for officers with concrete objectives and motivations to accept. But there is no such a criterion of adequacy independent of the agent, according to hypothetical contractual theories.
There is no independent value system to look at to determine the adequacy and hence the justice of a political system. It is therefore true that the notion of hypothetical consent does not add anything to a common sense and justice argument of a political system, but it is certainly not a foreign apparatus that has nothing but a metaphorical function. If what is reasonable is only what people with specific interests and motivations would accept, the fact that a person with specific interests and motivations would have accepted a political system is the « main argument » for justice in that political system. I have argued that a hypothetical endorsement is not in a position to establish political commitments, but it has the power to justify political agreements if two principles are accepted. One principle is ethical, the other is meta-ethical. The ethical principle is that people are morally equal and therefore are not justified in forcing each other for their own good.